LIMA — The Shawnee and Celina boys tennis teams butted heads in the regular season, and they butted heads in this week’s Western Buckeye League tournament.
When the dust finally settled Saturday at the WBL tournament on the UNOH tennis courts, the Indians and Bulldogs finished co-champions of the WBL. Shawnee won the tournament with 54 points followed by Celina’s 46 points and Ottawa-Glandorf’s 32 points. O-G also finished third in the final WBL standings.
Celina was the top team coming into the tournament after finishing the regular season unbeaten, followed by Shawnee in second place. Celina won the regular-season dual 3-2 at Shawnee.
It was Shawnee’s 22nd overall WBL title and Celina’s fifth. Shawnee has either won or shared a piece of the WBL title the past seven years.
“Our guys were very interested in repeating as champions, even a co-championship, it’s something we’re very happy and pleased about,” first-year Shawnee coach Steve Jones said. “This will boost morale and pump up some of our momentum (heading into the sectionals).
“Celina has a great team to be proud of. We got a strong showing from all our guys. My goal was to get them all to the finals and for them to perform well for themselves, and they did that.”
Shawnee had a player or doubles team in every championship match while Celina had three players/teams reach the championship, meaning the two teams faced off for three titles. Celina won all three of the head-to-head matchups while Shawnee won two individual titles.
At No. 1 singles, Shawnee senior Jason Barton beat Ottawa-Glandorf’s Alex Schroeder 6-3, 0-6, 6-0. Barton beat Schroeder in regular season matches the past two years but lost in the 2013 WBL finals to the Titans’ senior.
“He brings his A game in the finals,” Barton said. “He played well, the second set he took it to me. The third set, I just came back ready to play. “(The co-championship) is a pretty big deal, we would have obviously liked to win it outright. But we’ll take what we can get after losing in the regular season.”
Shawnee’s other championship came at third singles when Ruthvik Avvari beat John Schroeder (O-G) 6-2, 6-1.
At second singles, Celina’s Alex Seibel beat Shawnee’s Avinash Rajasekaran 6-0, 7-5. The Bulldogs won both doubles championships. The No. 1 doubles team of Isaac Elston and Kris LeJeune beat Shawnee’s Tim Rutter and Carter Jones 6-3, 6-4, and at No. 2 doubles the Celina team of Hagan Kriegel and Joel Weitz beat Shawnee’s Chris Mart and Troy Brinkman 7-6 (6), 6-2.
It was the second time the Celina team had beaten Shawnee’s duo of Rutter and Jones, but that didn’t mean Saturday’s match was easy.
“This one was definitely more of a grind,” LeJeune said. “Both teams played well and when both teams are playing well, it’s about getting a few key points. One of the keys was I served huge, and it really opened up the court for (Elston) to put balls away.”
The Elston-LeJeune team repeated as champions at No. 1 doubles after taking second place as a sophomore team.
“It was a taxing match, there were so many long points and so much thought had to go into it,” Elston said. “We played well, they just came back better. It’s hard to beat somebody twice, and today it was really hard.
“It’s great to win it, it’s a great end to a long journey. It’s not just the three tennis seasons we’ve played (as a doubles team) but in the offseason and the summer and winter, we’ve been grinding out doing drills, working in tournaments. It’s a great way to end it.”
In third place matches: Celina’s Aaron Seibel beat Van Wert’s Lane Mansfield 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 singles; O-G’s Brandon Hemfling beat Kenton’s Jake Abbott 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 singles; St. Marys’ Justin Nedderman beat Kenton’s Troy Goodin 6-1, 6-4 at No. 3 singles; at No. 1 doubles, Elida’s Jordan Greeley and Ian Klaus beat Kenton’s Kyle Phillips and Kyle Goodin 6-4, 6-2; at No. 2 doubles, Elida’s Tyler Mikesell and Drew Sarno beat Defiance’s Austin Hubbard and Matthew Winner 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-2.